Food is the substance used for nutrition and energy by living organisms. It consists primarily of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and minerals. The nutrient-rich molecules of food are absorbed and utilized by the body through digestion. The human food supply is a complex network of farmers, processors, distributors, retailers, and consumers.
Humans have a long history of using food for survival and as a vehicle for cultural expression. Prehistoric humans were hunter-gatherers who relied on wild plants and animals for sustenance. Over time, people developed agriculture and animal husbandry, which enabled them to cultivate crops and raise domesticated livestock. Today, most humans live in urban areas and eat a diet of processed foods.
The science of food encompasses many topics, including food additives, the chemistry of flavor, and methods of food preservation. The study of food also involves understanding how the body uses food for growth and energy. Food scientists must have a broad knowledge of science, technology, and society to work in this field.
To maintain good health, it is important to eat a variety of foods from each of the main food groups. A person should strive to eat fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy each day. The nutrients in these foods are vital for growth and development.
Protein is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds, and beans. This nutrient helps build and repair cells, control blood pressure, and regulate body temperature. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel. They are found in bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. This nutrient aids in digestive health, maintains a healthy weight, and lowers the risk of heart disease.
Eating a balanced diet isn’t always easy. Misleading information in the media and on social networks can lead to confusion about what types of foods are best for you. To keep your meal plans on track, try to avoid foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. Choose lean meats, poultry, and seafood instead of red meat and pork. Look for low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheeses that don’t contain added sugars. If eating out, opt for salads and vegetable-based entrees. When selecting a dessert, go for fruit or sorbet rather than cakes and cookies.
The amount of food an individual needs depends on age, gender, and activity level. For example, an active teenager needs more calories than a sedentary senior. When in doubt, consult a dietitian.